Thursday, December 02, 2010

Writers Group

I've asked a friend of mine who's a corporate attorney in NY to weigh in on the PJ situation, but she didn't get a chance to look over the case yet so that will have to wait until tomorrow.

Today I'll talk about writers groups.

I've been in writers groups before. Once I was in a group with a guy who thought it would be a good idea for him to start a contest where he didn't have to do much work or offer a good prize but could use it to make lots of money. Everyone in the group nodded as if this was a brilliant idea and dismissed my concern about how maybe it's just a tad dishonest and scammy. That was my last meeting with that group.

In one group, a girl who'd made one independent feature - a film she financed and paid to screen - decided to form her own consulting firm charging lots of money to help people work on their craft. Thing is, this girl only skimmed scripts. She'd ask questions that were answered clearly in the script, and gave some of the worst notes I've ever heard. And in the year I worked with this group, she never brought a single script to us to read. All she ever did was talk about how she was going to make her career happen, but since she'd made a movie once the other members of the group seemed to think she was the shit. I waited too long to leave that group.

I remember one time I gave another girl a note about her character introductions - a suggestion about how to make them more interesting - and she turned to another member of the group and specifically asked him if that note was a good one or if she should ignore it.

That's not to say that every member of every writers group I've known is an idiot. Some of the people I've worked with were knowledgeable and gave pretty good notes, but in order to get to their notes I had to sit through some serious bullshit.

One time a guy's only note was "This script is just terrible. I don't know what you want me to say." So that was helpful. I think sometimes people use writers groups as a way to enhance their own egos.

Since then, I've just rotated between a few friends for notes, but the process can take a while. Still, better than getting crappy notes fast.

So it was with great trepidation that I decided to join another one. Two weeks ago I met with a few people over in Wilshire and we discussed a romantic comedy, and it was minutes before I knew I was in the right place. These people knew their shit. We didn't waste time talking about how we were going to sell ourselves or gouge screenwriters out of cash or tear each other down. We got right into it, how do we make this script better? Everybody read the script, everybody had useful notes, and when it was obvious that one note went the wrong way we all tried to figure out together how else to approach the problem.

Before I met these people I was slowly eeking out pages, but once I realized I needed to produce something for the next meeting I busted my ass to get it done. I finished the first draft of Nice Girls Don't Kill last night and sent it around to the group. Eighty-one pages is normal for me with a first draft. Usually I get a lot of notes on scenes I need to add.

I'm jazzed about the notes I'm going to get because I know they will be delivered with respect and thought. It's been a while since I trusted a group of people to give notes. I'm glad I decided to give it a shot.

Of course, I say that now. Let's see how I feel after they've shredded my latest comic masterpiece.


  1. you know me. I've formed a half-dozen groups- more than that. I think writing is such a lonely job; it's always more fun if you're working with someone, during or after the writing.
    I formed the first actual let's-fucking-MEET L.A. area screenwriting Meet UP group. I tricked about 8 people to meet me in an IHOP in Koreatown; they thought theyw ere going to be my new writing partner. They got there and I said, hey, let's mingle. Most stuck. We had the Korean guy who kept writing scripts about characters who suddenly realized they were really, REALLY gay...the guy fatter than me who had one idea and had been rewriting it for years and the Mexican guy who really wanted to write a novel. Since he couldn't find a novel writing group, he came to us. Hilarious. I'll write about this over at my place; good topic.

  2. this article makes some good points about writing groups and contests.

  3. I met some fellow writers at a TheFilmSchool event here in Seattle. Got to talking to a couple of the folks and we mentioned getting together reguarly and discussing scripts and stories.

    Your scenarios sound horrific. I am hoping I can avoid those.

    I would like to just get together talk about what they are working on. Pitch ideas to one another. Share their work. And just really talk about stories and get the creative juices flowing.

    Writing is lonely and it sure makes it bearable when I can talk about all the crazy shit in my head to people who understand what I am going through.


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  5. Fingers crossed you have found the group of writers group you've been looking for.

    P.S. Is there anywhere online I can see your short film entitled "Game Night"? I remember the synopsis cracked me up when I found it on your site a couple months back.

  6. Not at the moment, mostly because it's 12 minutes long, but I'm working on it.

    Thanks for the support. These reminders make me stop procrastinating.

  7. Man, I was in a writing group in NYC that was run by a creepy guy and had mostly guys who patronized the fuck out of my scripts.

    That didn't last too long.

  8. My closest experience was a preschool version on training wheels, a scriptwriting class through the county. I was so excited, and not so fussy (I knew nothing, every and any bit I could learn, I'd be grateful for).

    Teacher walked in, 60s, woman, short punk white hair, faster pussycat kill kill t-shirt, so far so good, this could be interesting. She wrote a Beowulf script that Kenneth Branagh read, okay, that's cool. Third class, I read my scene, plucky heroine literally tethered to earth by a wire, she uses the word tether, teacher stopped me, tether too fancy a word, I can't use words like that.

    In absence of all else, wouldn't have thrown me, but in those three weeks the class had fallen from four dozen to less than two dozen, and my joy and zeal in the endeavor, my whole reason for doing it, had been almost entirely sapped. At that moment I realized my joy will not be sapped and tether is a damn fine word. Woman was not a happy lady (and branagh did not select her script, btw, just read, heard that story many times from her, egads).

    Woo hoo potentially exceptional writers group! May they be sufficiently clear-sighted to quickly recognize your brilliance...

  9. Anonymous3:29 PM

    Hey Emily,

    Just to say - I enjoy reading you blog. Very cool and entertaining and true to life.



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